(Quantum Nudge # 3: Intimacy)
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. -- Maya Angelou
"It's all about relationships," a common saying among salespeople, greatly applies to wellness, EAP and all human resource services. We can engage employees in health through intrinsic motivation and well designed strategies. But there is nothing like a coworker's heart-felt support in a time of need; being inspired when a peer loses weight, quits smoking, or gets help for an addiction; or belonging to a cohesive team in wellness competitions or charity events. As discussed in preceding blogs, we inspire others through heart and through strength. Peer-to-peer conversations that are friendly, personal, and genuine can sometimes be the only way to motivate change.
Intimacy. For providers of any health service, a quantum nudge means getting "your biggest bang for your buck." In our Team Wellness trainings, we help create conditions where coworkers can meet each other with authentic presence, openness, and trust--in the moment and even with vulnerability. There is some level of intimacy. When we get this right, it takes little time to produce change. Most wellness "programs" are just that: more about data, machinery, and strategy and less about the people. We can save clients money when actively meeting with them exactly where they are. Getting employees to use a program entails transaction at best; engaging them in true inside-out growth entails transformation.
"Without the real work of intimacy, the concept of a culture of health runs the risk of being overly romanticized and unreachable"
Transaction vs. Transformation. I describe this transaction-transformation distinction in Time & Intimacy, using the image below of five levels. Moving from one level to another requires a nudge. And not everyone wants to be nudged. Most are comfortable being at a "lower" level, especially in workplace contractual (employee-employer) relationships. Many are only comfortable with some advice or prompt (transcription) or have someone explain how a program applies to them (translation). It requires intimacy to move a relationship across levels to the dynamic give-and-take of transformation. I believe nudging a culture of health requires some level of such intimacy. This is not a prescription; it just helps to have a map.
Taking the Listening Page from Sales. Others have written quite a bit about transformational conversations in the work setting, including Just Listen (Goulston, 2009) or Crucial Conversations (Patterson et al., 2011). Sales techniques abound (e.g., Socratic Selling, Daley, 1995) as well as tools for building strong client partnerships (e.g., see Business Relationships That Last, Wallace, 2009; and All for One, Sobel, 2009). There is a wealth of tips and insights in these books. Their common message is the importance of listening and moving relationships to a sense of connection, collaboration, common trust, and win-win contribution.
TipsThe above diagram shows "Qualities of Intimacy" as facilitating or helping us move relationships from one level to the next, regardless of the initial level. These qualities are listed below along with tips for how to access intimacy for a quantum nudge.
Ongoing Assessment. First things first. How would you describe your relationship?
- Transcriptive (client uses services like a commodity only with no tie-in to culture change)
- Translational (some back-and-forth but only to clarify the scope of the service)
- Transactive (as a result of back-and-forth you and the client are making adjustments)
- Transformative (change is happening; there is a positive ripple effect in the culture)
- Transcendence (you are a trusted partner in an ongoing cycle of thriving)
- The Gift of Time. Communicate the willingness to invest time. When possible, move beyond "transcribed" emails or social media. Don't rush the interaction. If you can't give and bracket the time don't start the conversation.
- Keep the thread going to show continuity. Others may not respond and you should not push it. But if you have genuine interest stay in touch...at the right time.
- Consider the Whole Person. Your client is a whole person with life areas that extend beyond any workplace conversation but strongly influence it. Show genuine curiosity about personal interests, career, family, and other stressors. People want to be treated as whole beings not consumers.
- Sensitivity to Context. There is a right time, right place, and right way to extend an invitation and have a conversation. Asking "when is a good time for you?" and "how much time do you want to spend?" and "are there any distractions that you might have?" conveys sensitivity.
- Sensitivity to Readiness. As noted, not everyone wants to be nudged. A core skill in motivational interviewing is understanding readiness to change. And this applies to knowing the stage of the relationship (as seen by the other).
- Willingness to Interrupt. When appropriate, one way to nudge across levels is to interrupt the other, especially if he/she is in a routine or habit that is just not working. This can be risky but, if the relationship is to evolve, it helps to introduce some degree of informality.